In Egypt, Pharaoh was God


2015-04-02 – Tomorrow night we celebrate the 3,300th anniversary of the first religious freedom restoration act (give or take two or three hundred years).

According to the biblical book of Exodus, Moses went to Pharaoh and said, “Let my people go, so that they may worship me.” Pharaoh refused at first but, after a series of plagues, relented. Needless to say, this was a great victory for Moses and his people.

Needless to say, this was a great defeat for Pharaoh and his people. As we commemorate this event in our Passover Seder, we always pause to recognize the hurt inflicted on the people who had enslaved us.

It’s a short pause, but it’s a pause.

Pharaoh’s pause was short as well. His slaves were free barely a moment before he began to try to reverse the act. But his slaves were gone. Crossed the Red Sea and ultimately reached the promised land.

Where others lay in wait. An endless cycle.

* * *

Yesterday, I posted a link to my periodic plea that we balance April Fools day with an opposite sort of holiday that I’ve been calling Diogenes Day, a day for truth telling. I had never thought of this before, but it suddenly hit me that Passover has an opposite holiday that comes in the fall. Passover is about liberation. The Days of Awe (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur) are about obedience. Passover is the liberal’s holiday. The Days of Awe are the conservative’s holiday.

You’ve probably guessed that I am a fairly liberal guy. But I have a hard time seeing a liberal world that is unchecked by conservative ideas. Of course, I certainly can’t see a world un-freed by liberal ideas. There’s place for both.

And through history we come first under the sway of one influence, then the other, then back again.

When Pharaoh failed to return the Israelite slaves to Egypt, he issued a decree making in permissible for Egyptian to refuse service to any Israelite who showed up at their shops or restaurants if they held an honest religious belief that it was proper to do so.

In Egypt, Pharaoh was god.

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